New Delhi: Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Prakash Javadekar is in favour of hiring consultants on contract instead of regular government staff to fill up a large number of vacant posts in state-owned broadcasters All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan (DD), and their parent body Prasar Bharati.
About 15,000 posts are lying vacant in the three government bodies — against the sanctioned posts of around 42,000, only about 27,000 are occupied at present. Most of these appointments, particularly for the programme cadre and engineers, are made by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) and the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
Highly-placed sources in the ministry said Javadekar had made it clear in his initial meetings after taking charge that no regular government staff needed to be hired for these positions.
“The minister is keen on outsourcing for such positions and hiring consultants on a contract basis,” a senior official told ThePrint.
These posts have not been filled for several years as Prasar Bharati apparently never projected these vacancies to the recruiting authorities.
Another senior government official, however, said that according to government rules, a post that has not been occupied for two years is deemed to have been abolished.
“It has to be seen how such recruitment would be done in such a scenario,” the official said. “Moreover, outsourcing consultants do not require dedicated posts, they can be hired as and when required.”
Abhinav Prasoon, deputy director in the I&B ministry said in an email: “No directions whatsoever have been given by the Hon’ble Minister of Information & Broadcasting Shri Prakash Javadekar on the issues highlighted in the article. It unfortunately conveys a wrong impression and perception of the Ministry on critical matters. The Government is committed to following due procedures and laid down policies and guidelines with regard to recruitment procedures and managing human resources.”
But ThePrint has learnt that the minister spoke about consultants in a room full of officials after taking charge at the ministry. The ministry’s response, however, does not clarify if the thousands of vacant positions in DD/AIR will be filled by hiring regular government staff.
Prasar Bharati has, meanwhile, hired a private firm to carry out a manpower audit to rationalise its staff. The audit report will further determine how many posts have to be abolished or what would be the roadmap for inducting young consultants into DD or AIR.
Of the nearly Rs 4,000 crore allotted to Prasar Bharati from the ministry’s budget, almost two-thirds of the amount goes on overhead costs, which includes salaries and other HR costs, leaving little funds for fresh content creation or developing studios.
Push for consultants on contract
The new Narendra Modi government has been increasingly pushing for hiring “young consultants” — both in the ministries and autonomous bodies associated with them.
“Many ministries are taking the idea of a ‘Niti Model’ very seriously and will soon be starting the process of hiring consultants within the government,” a senior government official told ThePrint.
“It is not clear what roles they will be given. Some of them could be attached to the minister’s office or may have some roles to play in the lower bureaucracy,” the official added.
The Niti Model, the official referred to, is the model adopted by the government think-tank Niti Aayog, which in the last five years has hired several young consultants, who have been involved in policy formation and other key roles.
This article has been updated to include the I&B ministry’s response.